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Squat OR Not!

Popularity 9Viewed 9324 times 2015-5-25 16:05 |System category:Life| toilet, squat, hygiene, fish, restaurant

I am now into my 5th year in China and over that period of time I have had to use a squat toilet only once to do my number two’s. Amazing control of bodily functions you will no doubt think but really, for me, it's planning and a regular habit. For those of you who have had to balance themselves precariously on the edge of a squat toilet you know just what acrobatic strength is required to safely do your thing. Most public places in the big cities have a mixture of squat and western style toilets but once you move to the 3rd and 4th tier cities you have to try to be as regular as possible and restrict your daily toilette to your apartment. I don’t know if all apartments have western style toilets but certainly all those housing foreign teachers do. I’m speaking for guys here because for women? Well, they need to squat all the time so it’s a lot harder.


If you do suffer from irregular bowel movements then not only is it advisable to start practising squatting but also to always carry with you tissues or a roll of toilet paper as none is supplied anywhere in most of China. Restaurants, schools, bus stations, railway stations and businesses do not supply toilet paper. Consider the oxymoron of that statement when it is a well known fact that China invented paper! I believe China also invented the flush toilet but somewhere over the past few hundred years the habit of not putting some used toilet paper into the bowl after wiping your nether regions also was adopted. Nor are there any sanitary bins supplied. Wrap your imagination around that for a few seconds!  I don’t know who invented doors but many public toilets in China don’t bother with these either. The lack of privacy when performing bodily functions is part and parcel of living in China. It's rumoured that one reason China lost the Olympics to Sydney in 2000 was the concern for the state of its toilets!

Plumbing is another issue. Modern advances in toilet design gave us the S-bend shaped pipe which retains a small amount of water after use, creating a seal to prevent sewer gas from sneaking back into the building. The Chinese seem to be completely oblivious to this practical piece of plumbing magic and you can imagine the smells you have in all toilets. I have placed three eodoriser gadgets in the small bathroom of my luxurious apartment to counter this never ending attack on my olfactory senses.


Are squat toilets more hygienic than our sit on western dunnies? There is a notion that they may be because our nether regions don’t come in contact with the porcelain in a squatter so disease can’t be transmitted so easily. Add to this studies suggesting that the squat toilet promotes better posture , less stress on organs in the digestive system as well as increased flexibility and it looks like squatting isn’t such a bad idea at all – it’s just one that us clumsy foreigners are not used to.


Some of the toilets I have gone into at restaurants here can only be described as disgustingly ghastly and the practice of putting used toilet paper into a small waste paper bin next to the squat means that taking a big breath and closing your eyes becomes the safest way to take a pee lest you start to dry heave. The one time I used a squat was at the school where I work and it was due to an upset tummy. Positioning myself and being aware of direction and just where to put my feet must have looked hilarious if it had been caught on candid camera but for me it was most traumatic.


Here’s another thing – many of the toilets cater for both sexes. You can be doing your bit in one cubicle next to a woman doing hers. Exit together, wash hands and exchange pleasantries. Bizarre at times. 



What was the most unimagineable toilet I ever went to? My boss took me, along with her family and a friend, to a restaurant famous for its fish meals. The place was a good 2 to 3 hour drive from the city of Daqing and at times along little tracks through local countryside. The place was quite small and was nestled in among a whole heap of ponds from which you caught your fish. That’s why it was famous I guess because it had its own fish supply. That day we went it was wet, cold and windy. There was no toilet in the restaurant (go figure!) but I was directed to an outhouse which consisted of prefab concrete slabs bolted together, a concrete floor, no basin, no wash facilities, no toilet bowl, no water to flush with and of course no toilet paper!! There was a rectangular hole in the concrete floor and the structure was built over the creek with a drop of about 4 metres from bum to water below! The wind howled underneath the structure and virtually whipped away anything that passed through that hole. I am so happy I needed to pee only! No doubt on a nice day everything you did fell nicely into the creek……which fed the ponds. I didn’t eat the fish!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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